|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Actually, good morning, rather; welcome to the nearly noon briefing. We will try to be out of here quickly in time for guests at noon.
**Secretary-General in Iran
The Secretary-General spoke at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran this morning, and he has also spoken at the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s School of International Relations. He has had a range of bilateral meetings with leaders attending the Summit, and we will provide details on those a little later.
In his speech to the Summit, the Secretary-General said that, by assuming the leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement, Iran had the opportunity to demonstrate that it can play a moderate and constructive role internationally. The Secretary-General urged the Iranian Government to take the necessary measures to build international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear programme.
On Syria, the Secretary-General said we now face the grim risk of long-term civil war. He also said that those who provide arms to either side are contributing to the misery.
The Secretary-General added that he strongly rejects threats by any Member State to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust.
In his remarks at the School of International Relations, he said many human rights challenges remain in Iran. He said it was especially important for the voices of Iran’s people to be heard during next year’s presidential election. He said that was why he had urged the authorities during his visit to release opposition leaders, human rights defenders, journalists and social activists to create the conditions for free expression and open debate.
The Security Council will hold a ministerial meeting concerning the humanitarian situation in Syria, starting at 3 p.m. this afternoon. The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, will brief Council members on the humanitarian situation, and he intends to talk to reporters at the Council stakeout afterwards. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, will also be on hand to provide information to the Council, and also intends to speak to reporters.
And at noon in this auditorium, Laurent Fabius, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of France and the President of the Security Council, and William Hague, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, will hold a joint press conference about today’s meeting.
The Security Council earlier this morning adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) by one year, until the end of August 2013.
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the Maldives.
The Secretary-General welcomes the release of the report today by the Commission of National Inquiry that has looked into the facts, circumstances and causes of the 7 February transfer of power in the Maldives.
The Commission was reconstituted in June with international assistance and has since been recognized by all parties as a credible inquiry mechanism. The Secretary-General urges all parties to accept the findings of the Commission and now begin the process of national dialogue aimed at resolving the political problems facing the country.
To that end, he welcomes the start today of high-level political dialogue, and hopes that this leads to national reconciliation and a way of moving forward. He is concerned at the prospect of renewed political tensions should any side not accept the outcome of the inquiry. He calls on all parties to exercise maximum cooperation and restraint.
The Secretary-General calls on the parties to respect the Constitution, create a peaceful and transparent environment conducive to dialogue, and take steps to strengthen democratic reform and institutions.
The Secretary-General reaffirms the readiness of the United Nations to extend the necessary support and assistance requested by the parties.
Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is in Mali to assess the response to the severe food crisis affecting 4.6 million people in the country. One hundred and seventy-five thousand children are at risk from severe malnutrition.
While in Mali, she visited a nutrition centre in the capital, Bamako, which has treated more than 1,000 children for acute malnutrition since the start of the year. Ms Amos said that children's lives are being blighted by the crisis. She added that we have the knowledge and capacity to address this crisis, but funds are lacking to do everything that is needed.
The United Nations appealed for $213 million for the humanitarian response in Mali, but has so far received only 46 per cent of the total requirement. Water, hygiene and sanitation, as well as the education and health sectors, are severely underfunded.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that she was deeply disturbed that, after 27 years without any official executions in the Gambia, nine death row inmates were killed by firing squad in a setback for human rights protection in the country.
Navi Pillay called the confusion and lack of transparency for several days over whether the executions actually took place unacceptable, particularly for the family members of those killed. Secretly executing individuals, without informing their families, amounts to inhuman treatment, she added.
She issued an urgent call on President Yahya Jammeh and relevant authorities in the country to heed all the international, regional and local calls on the Government not to carry out further executions. There is more information on the website of the UN human rights office.
And tomorrow at 4 p.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Raymond Tshibanda N'tunga Mulongo, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Francophonie Affairs of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
That’s it from me. Any questions before we head out for the next speakers? Yes, Stefano?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes. In the conference in Tehran, the President and the Supreme Leader, [Imam Ali] Khamenei, also the President of Egypt, they accused the Security Council of being an institution from the past, not any more good for the present. And at the same time, the same conference, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Iran to respect the resolutions of the Security Council. So what was the reaction of the Secretary-General to this accusation that the Security Council lost its legitimacy?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, in a way, there are separate issues. On the one hand, the work that the Security Council is doing in the resolutions it has put out needs to be respected by all States. Certainly, the way forward in Syria includes the intense activity by the Security Council, and as you know, they will take up the issue again in just a few hours from now. Regarding any efforts to reform the Security Council to make it more legitimate, those have been ongoing for many, many years. The Secretary-General certainly supports the idea, broadly speaking, of making the Security Council more representative and adding to its legitimacy. Of course, that type of reform is in the hands of Member States and it’s up to them to decide how to proceed with that. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you. After the Non-Aligned [Movement] meeting in Tehran, is the Secretary-General considering visiting any other countries in the region?
Associate Spokesperson: He will be back in New York, in fact, after a brief stopover. He will be back in New York this Saturday. We may have other travels to other countries announced down the line, but that’s it for now. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. Did the Secretary-General have any chance to discuss with Grand Imam Khamenei or President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad the necessity to bring the inspectors for the Iran nuclear programmes? Was this on his agenda when he discussed with the Iranian leadership or not?
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, as Martin Nesirky, the Spokesperson, said when he called in to this briefing just a day ago, the topic of ensuring that there is a way of proving the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme was discussed. And certainly the issue of access for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was discussed. Along those lines, there is a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency on the nuclear programme of Iran and I believe that that report will be discussed at the Board of Governors’ forthcoming meeting on 10 September. Yes, Matthew?
Question: I want to ask you about Somalia and the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]. In Somalia, there has been a report that the Kenyan navy was shelling Kismayo and that they are not part of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia]. They are in support of AMISOM military action there, but civilians have been killed. I just wondered if Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga, or how the UN views essentially the Kenyan navy shelling Somalia.
Associate Spokesperson: There has been no comment from Mr. Mahiga thus far, but we’ll check and see whether there is anything he says further about these reports.
Question: And I also wanted to… the last two days there’ve… there’ve been meetings about DRC and the Sanctions Committee in the North Lawn Building. The Foreign Minister of Rwanda yesterday said that Rwanda has raised its concerns about the coordinator of the Group of Experts to the “appointing authority”. Their concerns being an article written saying that FDLR [Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda] militia is not really a problem for Rwanda and other statements by Mr. [Steve] Hege. So I wanted to know, is the Secretariat the appointing authority, and if so, what’s the response to the concerns raised publicly by Rwanda?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, if the Security Council were to have concerns about the work of the panel of experts, they could make that known. They received the report of the panel of experts, which we take to be the impartial work of duly appointed experts on the issue. Certainly, this particular report is in the hands of the Security Council, and it’s up to them to evaluate the quality and integrity of that work.
Question: I guess I just wondered, because they seem to be distinguishing, questioning the report and questioning the reporter. They are asking how he was evaluated and vetted. Are you aware of that concern and is there a response to it?
Associate Spokesperson: I think we have shared with you the basic information in the past about the vetting of the people appointed to panels of experts. And this would be keeping with that general practice. And, yeah, one last one?
Question: Sure, there is supposedly a letter that was sent to Patricia O’Brien about Sudan’s candidacy for the Human Rights Council. It’s been publicly announced; I don’t know if the UN has received it. And also, does the Secretariat have any role in ruling on the eligibility of countries to run in elections for the Human Rights Council?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, certainly, Member States can request our expertise, our legal expertise, on points of order if they choose to do so. In this case, though, the question of membership in the Human Rights Council is up to the Member States, as it properly is, and we will leave it in their hands how to handle this issue.
And that’s it. So if all of you stay comfortably seated where you are in the next few minutes, Laurent Fabius and William Hague will speak to you. Thanks.
* *** *For information media • not an official record